My Entrepreneurship Journey:
Is there something you want but it has simply eluded you? For me it is becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Most of my life, I have wanted the following things, to have a deep relationship with God, to get married to an amazing man, to have kids and to run a successful business. So far God has come through with the 1st three desires, but the last one has really tested me.
Most people know me as the Ije Uzor the Founder of ICONS Closet, a few people know and remember me as Ijeabalum Nwandu, a serial entrepreneur. Now, a brief journey down memory lane: I started this journey 12 years ago when I founded LA Pooza, a lingerie company. My vision was to create the Victorias Secret of Africa. With so much excitement and ump, I gave that business venture a good run, and hosted some great shows akin to the shows hosted by Victoria Secret but of course without the same budget but those shows were awesome!!!. Unfortunately, all the hard work, time and my very scarce resources that I put into LA Pooza did not yield my desired outcome and in 2011 LA Pooza was shut down. Looking back, I would say that inexperience got the best of me L.
In my zeal to build up my experience in the lingerie business, I decided to intern with some of the top lingerie brands in the UK and do a Masters’ degree. By 2012, I was ready to restart my journey with a change in strategy which would address the needs of a niche market. I designed a gorgeous lingerie collection for D+ women, which kicked off with great interest the highlight of which was when I got a call for a preliminary order with ASOS in 2015. I thought to myself after I received that call that my breakthrough has finally come and all my efforts will finally yield fruits. However, it collapsed before it even began, when ASOS changed its lingerie buyer and I got a call from the new lingerie buyer for ASOS saying that they had decided not to continue with the order. At that point, my dreams got shattered.
I started ICONS Closet by selling jewelry in 2013 but did not really get into it until 2015 while trying to raise money to fund my lingerie line. I moved to the US after I got married and one day, I accidently stumbled on the fashion district in Los Angeles and came up with an idea to create a blogger inspired website for brown girls. I had been in the United States for less than 3 months but I was determined to succeed and America seemed like my final shot at making it. My husband gifted me US$3,000 to set up. It started off so promising, with the help of so many amazing bloggers, it looked like I was unto something. Then like my previous successes, it started unravelling in 2016, I fell pregnant and very sick. I couldn’t keep up anymore. I saw everything I had created, start to fall apart.
This time the failure felt even more personal, it was my last hope of making it as an entrepreneur. I was 31 years old and I still haven’t gotten the big break I imagined 10 years later.. It was a devastating realization and my confidence was at an all time low.
Why couldn’t I get it together and change my narrative? When we got married, my husband always said he was excited and would fully support me in actualizing the amazing life of success I dream for myself. Unfortunately, it has not played out as I had imagined and all the dreams I had shared with him were not coming to light. I cannot begin to describe the pain, and shame I felt. Though he continued to encourage me, I felt like a fraud.
Last Year, I decided to try again. I figured, no babies were coming this year and so everything would hopefully work out better. I also started to work on very deep character flaws that I felt contributed to my lack of success. I told myself no more excuses and that I was going for gold in 2020. I employed two amazing women to help me achieve this goal of making 2020 the year of turn around. Jan and Feb, we set goals and smashed them, it was looking good. I hit a few hiccups but nothing we couldn’t overcome. I had been following the news on the Corona Virus coming out of China, since January. It looked scary but like Ebola, I naively thought it would be contained. I had also recently started producing predominantly in Nigeria, so I felt invisible.
Then my production suddenly hit issues, difficulty in sourcing fabrics, it started to dawn on me that I was not as prepared or invisible. By the 19th of March, I started reliving that familiar feeling of failure again. By the 21st of March, I had to write to my customers admitting failure and processing refunds that ran into thousands. Again, more heart break but nonetheless, the right thing to do as my integrity comes first over profitability. I have made peace with it.
Why am I writing this? Because the Corona Virus feels like another kick in the gut on my journey to greatness, it is also gut wrenching for me as an individual, and business owner.
The last 5 years had consisted of lots of blessings which I do not for one second, take for granted - settling into my new life as a wife and mother – hence, it has also been raining blessings here. Unfortunately, my heart is not content because the success I craved still evades me. Every time I start picking up steam, something happens to slow me down.
The one resolve I do have is I am not giving up as easily as I had done in the past. In fact, I am setting an impossible goal for myself this year. Corona or not, I plan to sell 4,000 pieces of clothing before 2020 ends God willing. I am working on the blue print during this time to make it a reality.
This has been my journey so far, unfortunately it is not an inspirational post that ends with me winning but, just my genuine struggles and my zeal to keep on pushing. What I have decided to actively do is not to replay the history I have lived and be discouraged by it but be encouraged by the future I see in front of me. Fingers crossed with your help I am still on my way to joining the greats like Madam CJ Walker and Sarah Blakely.
Watch this space :)
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Unsure of your size? This chart gives you a good idea!
Still not sure send us an email, we are happy to walk you through it.
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST FOR ACCESS TO EXCLUSIVE SALES & MORE!